Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, the Postcards edition, number 22, a podcast by Quentin Bega where you will hear Banter, a traditional Irish folk group from Sydney’s outer west, present four songs drawn from the traditions of the English-speaking world. In this edition I will cover the songs because of COVID restrictions. And, as always, Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.
The Augathella Station (Brisbane Ladies) “The Long Paddock” is the colloquial name given to the historical travelling stock routes of Australia. “The Augathella Drovers”, also known as “Augathella Station”, “Farewell Brisbane Ladies”, or simply “The Drover’s Song” is an Australian folk song based on a well-known English original called “Ladies of Spain. The song bids farewell to the Ladies of Brisbane on the drovers’ departure and follows their journey along the stock route to the Augathella Station (nearly 800 kilometres inland) in much the same way that the English sailors bid farewell to the ladies of Spain. (notes above by Brett Thompson/fourandtwentymusic.com). Banter has gone over the song a few times in practice; however, we haven’t yet got the vocal and instrumental parts sufficiently together for public performance. I reckon it would go well with another great droving song, The Overlander, which is a staple of the group. If and when we emerge from lockdown to something approximating the previously normal pub/club milieu, we may well rant and roar the song out…after a few soothing ales. [insert song]
The Green Glens of Antrim Who wrote it- I discovered this from the site Mudcat: ‘The Green Glens of Antrim’ is a song I grew up with hearing regularly, in the heart of the Glens – Cushendall… The Green Glens of Antrim was written by Archie Montgomery (under the pseudonym of Kenneth North) and published in 1950. Now, Archie Montgomery sounds Scottish. From living in the Glens from 1964 to 1972 (off and on), I can attest that the Glens were a magnet for Scottish visitors in the 20th Century, right up until the time that the latest iteration of the “Troubles” put paid to tourism of any kind. So, a Scottish connection is possible. It matters not a whit to me whether or not the composer was a native of the Glens of Antrim, or indeed, Ireland. An abiding memory for me was when I produced a play in the early 80s for the Glens’ Amateur Drama Society and, after the festival, we gathered in a hotel in the west of Ireland. One of the crew started the song and all the Cushendall contingent joined in and raised the rafters with an a capella version. And I’ve never heard better! [insert song]
I Was Only Nineteen The song was released in March 1983. Recorded by Redgum, royalties for the song go to the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia. It is a first-person account of a typical Australian soldier’s experience in the Vietnam War, from training at a military academy in Australia to first hand exposure to military operations and combat and ultimately his return home disillusioned and suffering from both PTSD and, it is implied, the harmful effects of Agent Orange. Contrary to popular belief, the subject of this song volunteered for service in the Australian Army and was not conscripted. During the Vietnam War, Australian men did not become eligible for conscription until the age of 20.In 1997, during a performance of the song, at The Henry Lawson Club in western Sydney, I noticed a guy of fifty-something, bearded and with greying long hair, watching the group intently. In passing (on the way to the bar for a beer after the song) I casually asked him how he was enjoying the set. He looked at me for a while and said, “I thought at first, you were taking the piss- but decided there was no disrespect intended.” He was a Vietnam Vet. I assured him that, far from dissing anyone, we were honouring the soldiers who served. [insert song]
Murisheen Durkin This Irish folk song tells the story of an emigrant from Ireland who goes to mine for gold in California during the California Gold Rush, 1849. The song is about emigration, although atypically optimistic for the genre. The song reached prominence when Johnny McEvoy’s recording reached no. 1 in Ireland in 1966. It has been recorded by lots of artists since this time, including, Christy Moore, The Pogues, The Dubliners and The Wolfe Tones. Into that august company, the group Banter intends to venture (if I have anything to do with it!) A couple of years ago when Jim was off to Belfast to visit relatives, Sam, Mark and I had a couple of practices where we canvassed a few songs that were blasts from the past. We never got round to including the song in any of our sets after Jim’s return; however, it might well make an appearance, if and when the venues for music re-open here in western Sydney. [insert song]
For Postcard 23 I will be filching songs from the other two singers in the group. My excuse, again, is the virus. Its impact continues to take a toll on lives and society here in Australia and around the world. First is a song I learned as a student in Belfast in 1968, Woody Guthrie’s great Deportees. Then, The Curragh of Kildare which the Johnstons popularised back in the late 1960s and which remains one of the best versions available. The Galway Races, is penultimately placed in this postcard while the final song past the post is my version of the defiant union song, Joe Hill. Apologies to Jim and Sam for stealing their songs, yet again.
Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.
Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter)
Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58
For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used
Music accompaniment and composition software– Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studio. Approximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.